On “Settling” and Expectations

When I woke one fine morning last week, I knew that I had a thought or two, or twenty, about a people topic.

You know I’ve gone there when I waxed personal on Michael Baisden’s relationship commentary. That post still gets hits, and it rings true for a lot of folks, and as it is, I feel that another topic needs to be addressed as a correlation to this: the concept of settling, expecting, and accepting certain things from people.

I’ve done the settling thing once before, and I have two words: never again.

But the relationship aspect of things aside, lately I got to thinking about what treatment I accept from people overall, in everyday life. Friends, family, total strangers. This is a matter of respect, first and foremost, and manners secondly. I’ll spare you the entire schtick on manners in the current generation; the closer I get to the big three-oh, the more I feel that I’m the odd girl out by virtue of having manners. I give up my seat for an elderly person on the public transit system. I know which fork to use when (hey, you will need to know basic etiquette at least once in your life), and I still use please  and thank you in everyday conversation. But that’s just basic manners, and let’s not bemoan the steady decline thereof. The basic tenet of all of the above is that I treat people, even complete strangers, with a certain modicum of respect just as a whole. Moreover, I expect the same of people, and you’d be amazed just how infrequently I get the same.

Honestly, the most recent experience I had recently when it comes to respect was at one of my local music spots. Some guy next to me was trying to give away a ticket to the show at the bar, and when I told him I don’t go to a show without my camera (truth), he proceeded to sneeringly ask me if I put pictures up on Instagram and if that’s what I believe makes me a photographer. Considering that you guys know what my photography and my portfolio looks like, I find that insulting; I’ve built up my rep on turning out photos that are certain calibers above Instagram. I don’t know whether it was the fact that I was in a bar, I was female, I told him no, or what, but really: if someone tells you they’re a photographer, minimizing their abilities just because you got told no is not the best way to make yourself endearing. Kudos to the bartender for diffusing it, but come on.

Conversely, I got offered a guest-list spot because I’m a photographer. I’ve not asked for it. I never ask for these things. But to me, it’s a sign that the person offering respects my abilities and skills.

The one thing that aggravated me the most, however, is when a female, whom I didn’t know from Adam, Eve, or their children, whom I got into a casual conversation with at a bar, started telling me how I should be looking for a man to settle down with. Because I was alone in a watering hole around the block from my job. First of all, I never ask for someone else’s opinion on my solo lifestyle, and secondly, there’s no higher disrespect than telling someone, “you should” when it comes to their opinions, life, and thoughts. Few things show less respect for someone than telling them what they should be living like.

We always discuss things, and we’re all guilty of “you should”-ing people in one form or another, but the truth is, that wins you no points, and it only succeeds in demonstrating your lack of respect for that person. Instructions are one thing, but forcing your opinions unto others is something else. You can always give your perspective, but the words “you should” in regards to someone else’s opinion will succeed only in showing just what your regard for them and their opinions is. You’re not the other person. You don’t have their experience, mentality, or train of thoughts. You’re not their parent, you’re not their keeper, you’re not them. And after a while, I asked myself a simple question: why in the hell would I consider the opinions of someone who obviously can’t respect me for myself?

The answer, of course, is that I wouldn’t.

The thing is, though, I don’t like confrontation. Never have and never will; I confront people only when I absolutely have to: to protect my business, or to protect myself or people close to me. But as of late, I’ve had to ask myself: what am I willing to tolerate, and why am I tolerating what I don’t want from the people in my life?

I’m still learning the answers to these two, mind you. But the number-one thing I learned so far is that people will push you as far as they can if they don’t know where the boundary is. If you don’t set a boundary and enforce it, you can expect at least one person, minimum, to take full advantage of the fact. And you can resent them, yes, be dissatisfied, yes, but know this: because you didn’t enforce your boundaries from the beginning, you’ll be stuck with the treatment you get. But we tend to settle – yes, settle – with the treatment that we receive from people, and not once do we think that yes, that treatment can change, and that we, as basic human beings, deserve better than what we get.

This in turn begets the questions, how do you know if you settled for getting less than you want or deserve in your everyday treatment? And second of all, how are you willing to fix it, if you are?

I’m only now starting to realize the sort of treatment I want to receive from people I’m surrounded by. My luck is, I already receive it. The few instances where I don’t, I have to make the choice: do I confront the person and salvage whatever relationship that can be there, or do I jettison them and cut my losses? About 90% of the time, though, I jettison, and I will explain why: because I know that the person in question will likely never change, and that confronting and trying to change their treatment of me will be a wasted effort. With my experience with people thus far, I find that it’s far less difficult for me to simply remove the person from my day-to-day life and put them – and their treatment of me – into the past.

Primarily, though, it’s all because of one simple tenet that I adopted: if I won’t tolerate it out of my family and friends, then why should I ever tolerate it out of people I’m not close to? It’s a matter of standards, and what I feel – for myself, in any case – is that people have grown very lax in what they expect in others’ treatment of them. Or maybe it’s that I lived in NYC for too long.

This is brought to you by air conditioning, and much humidity, and not enough homemade iced coffee.